I thought I would write a post about organising a clothes swap. As you may know, the swaps I organise were first started in Leeds by Kirsty and Emily, way back in 2011. When Kirsty moved away for a bit I took over organising swaps in Leeds and Sheffield. Kirsty and Emily are now running them in Leeds again, although I haven't managed to get to one yet, and I've carried on doing Sheffield ones. I'm not sure how many I've organised now, but probably around ten? So I've got some experience and some pointers, and I thought I'd write a post.
So, you want to run a clothes swap? Well first of all, choose a venue. It's hard to find venues for free, but try to find it at least low cost so you're not stuck footing the bill if not many people turn up. I would also say that the place really should be accessible for anyone using a wheelchair. It's a bonus if it's a venue that sells drinks and food, too, and can be mutually beneficial for them to host you because they make money off people buying food. If you can't find anywhere ask around and go ask owners, I've found that a lot of places are more than happy to host something on a Saturday afternoon. Make sure the venue has tables and chairs for you to use and that the space is well lit as we've found that makes a difference.
Choose your date and time. I find that a noon start is perfect, and usually finish up around 4pm. I would say to ask some friends for help to help you set up and tidy up at the end, it ends up being a lot for one or even two people to do. Around four or five people should be fine.
Choose an entrance fee, I would say you should keep it as low as possible. I usually say £2 but also say I'm open to donations. I also say that if anyone can't pay that doesn't mean they're excluded. I used to be a lot more concerned about the entrance fee, but I don't think people should have to disclose to me that they're on a low income or something similar, so I usually now leave the cup by the door and leave it so people can put money in or not. I usually just say loudly "There's a cup by the door for the entrance fee by the way" a couple of times and otherwise let it be, I don't police it.
Draw a poster with all your details on and circulate it online. If you'd ever like me to share a poster, leave a comment on my blog or @ me on twitter, my username is @cheaprhyme. I do like to support other swaps and try to come if it's close by. The poster doesn't have to be anything fancy, literally just words will do. Do a Facebook event and ask friends to share the details, especially if they're bloggers with many more followers. Make sure that you detail what sizes people can bring - we say from a size 16 or an L. I usually say people can bring accessories too. We also say that we welcome all genders of people, the swaps are not limited to women and honestly if you want it to be radical and welcoming you should do the same.
Try to put your posters up somewhere too, especially in the venue itself. I'd say do this at least six weeks before the swap. Promote online wherever you can!
On the day, make sure you have some change to put in the cup to start people off. Also buy a roll of black bin bags because you will need them! We always split the swaps not by size, which are arbitrary anyway, but by type of clothing. So we'll have one table for bottoms eg skirts, trousers, leggings, one for tops, one for dresses. We usually put shoes on the floor and accessories all together too. It depends on space! I've also been to swaps where someone has brought a full length mirror and this can be really helpful.
I don't have a policy of "bring one item/take one item" because a) it requires much more policing than I can be bothered with and b) there always ends up being SO much left over anyway. Let people take what they want or need to take! It works out fine, I promise. I would say get into there, pick out everything you like the look of and keep hold of it. Try it on - I'm a big proponent of trying on everything even if it's not technically "your" size - sizing changes so much and something may look fantastic on you even if it's really not your size. If you don't like something, put it back on the pile, and if you get home and find it doesn't work, bring it back next time!
Enjoy yourself! I used to feel a bit removed from the swap since I was in charge of it, but recently I've been trying to get stuck in and look at everything. It helps me to have Lee there, who basically sits around chatting to people.
At the end of the swap me and my helpers pack everything up into black bags. Decide beforehand what you're going to do with the leftovers - you could store them to bring to the next swap, but we've taken to taking them to the Mind shop on London Road in Sheffield, so we put all the stuff in the car and unload there. You will have stuff leftover so a friend with a car if you don't have one will come in very handy!
Pay the venue, leave it tidy, say thank you - all of that means that they're more likely to agree to have you back!
Finally, we always make sure to go somewhere yummy to eat after a swap, which is a huge destress for me and a fun chance to hang out more! Do you have any questions?